Health Brief: Researchers find babies exclusively breastfed for six months have lower iron levels
The first randomized research trial, that compared babies exclusively breastfed for six months to those who were exclusively breastfed for four months, found that babies in the latter group had higher iron levels.
In the study, one group of mothers exclusively breastfed for six months, while the other group breastfed, but also introduced infant cereal, formula and fruit purees at 4 months. Researchers measured the infants and their iron levels at 6 months. While iron levels in the second group were higher, there was no significant difference in growth rates, or the rates of anemia.
Currently the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization (WHO) both recommend that newborns should be exclusively breastfed for six months. According to this study, the reason the WHO holds that recommendation is that exclusively breastfeeding is a healthier option in poverty-stricken countries, where water may be contaminated, or proper nutrition may be hard to come by.
While breastfeeding has been exhaustively researched, health experts have questioned how long exclusively breastfeeding, without introducing other foods, should occur in more developed countries.
“In high-income countries, the evidence for recommending six months of exclusive breastfeeding is less clear,” wrote the researchers.